The answer is that the Astro’s mistakes now mean a 3-0 hole in the American League Championship Series. Or the answer is something like a mixture of clichés to say that playoff baseball rewards precision and punishes the unwary. And these rays never miss a chance with carelessness.
“Right now they believe,” said Astros manager Dusty Baker of the rays. “They believe that whatever they do is right and right.”
In a parallel world where games are played on paper, the Astros started on Tuesday with a 2-0 lead. They beat the Rays in Game 1, nine to six, and got six solid innings from starter Framber Valdez. They beat the rays in Game 2, 10 through 4, and got seven dominant innings from starter Lance McCullers Jr. But in reality, where the winner scores more points and takes everything, the Astros lost every time.
Field players found their missiles. Their mistakes, big or small, led directly to Ray’s runs. Tampa Bay seemed to make every game, jumping over walls, sliding in dirt, and stretching for throws to knock Houston an inch. Then his bullpen nearly blew Game 2 before Alex Bregman hit the last one on the warning lane at 98.4 mph.
So listen to the Astros after that loss, the tenor of their answers as they retreated to the wall, and there was urgency with a touch of patience. If they continued to play good baseball, the results would change. That logic, they thought, was reasonable.
Here was shortstop Carlos Correa: “It’s not like we’ve never been here. We have to attack it like last year. We were able to come back and win three games in a row. I don’t think it’s impossible. “
Here was McCullers: “We have to play for our lives.”
And here was Baker, their 71-year-old leader, describing the action and plan: “They got away two days in a row, but they can’t get away any further.”
Then the rays escaped again.
“This is a steep mountain to climb, but it’s not impossible,” said Baker after losing in Game 3. He knew that only one team, the Boston Red Sox in 2004, was 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series. “We just have to tighten our belts, put on our big boys pants and fight tomorrow.”
The night began with a short-lived release. After Altuve made two mistakes in Game 2, the first of which finally made the Rays leap forward, he rocked a homer with the first inning ahead of Ryan Yarbrough. Altuve, a well-known high ball hitter, grabbed a cutter – pitch that hissed in his eyes – and pulled it out to the left.
Yarbrough, a gently throwing left-handed man, danced in and out of trouble for five innings. Other clever fields supported him.
“It seems like they stand there every time we hit a ball hard,” said Astros outfielder Michael Brantley. “It happens. It’s baseball, it’s a tough game.”
Kevin Kiermaier finished the first with a jump on the midfield wall. Again, of course, Bregman found the wrong ending to a gem. But he was far from being alone on Tuesday. At two in the third, Correa hit a ball in the center right, a sinking liner that looked like grass tied. However, Kiermaier got a good jump and burst into the gap.
His diving catch left Correa empty-handed. Between innings, during an interview with TBS, Baker suspected that Kiermaier had saved three runs in three innings. Baker called this the power of defense, a superpower of rays that helped Baker’s team get 31 runners through three games. Shortstop Willy Adames followed with a run to round the fifth. And soon, Altuve’s latest mistake came, sparking the rally that tore Houston in half.
“I don’t know, I really don’t know,” said Baker when asked if Altuve will have the Yips with no throwing errors after the regular season is over. He quickly added that Altuve will definitely start in second place in Game 4. “It’s hard to see this happening to such a great player and such a great guy, you know? I don’t know what it’s called. You can go into a defensive slump just as you can go into an offensive slump. And then physical becomes mental. We definitely have to overcome that. “
They were the dreaded villains, a team of playoff stars who zoomed through two rounds to trigger another title run. But now it’s nine innings after the elimination, thanks to this sixth inning sequence: Altuve skips a throw which, instead of starting a double game, lands in the outfield; that mistake in pursuing starter Jose Urquidy, who scored five goals to maintain a slim lead; His exit drove Enoli Paredes, her best assistant, to score two singles, a sacrificial fly and two hits before a prize hitter Hunter Renfroe scored a two-brace against Brooks Raley that led to the 5-1. That’s it
Urquidy closed his eyes in the dugout when Joey Wendle hit a two-part single against Paredes to the left. Baker flapped his arms in frustration after Paredes hit Adames with a fastball and skimmed a finger to get through another run. Before that, when the Astros was not completely burned, Kiermaier took a 0-2 fastball to his wrist and kicked out with a bruise in his left hand. The x-rays were negative, and Ray’s manager Kevin Cash expects him to be fine.
Next, Brantley tossed up a homer who could only contain the damage. The Astros loaded the bases with an out in the eighth and were slowed as Renfroe made a sliding grip. They put the bond run on the plate on the ninth and again nothing. Renfroe had already salted the wounds with a dip in the seventh. And when he did that, Astros outfielder George Springer stopped with angry brow and threw his helmet in the dirt. Tampa Bay frustrated Houston so much that an inanimate property had to pay for it.
All other answers fell short.